Wednesday, November 2, 2011

In Time

MPAA (PG-13) CNS/USCCB (A-III) Roger Ebert (3 Stars) Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

In Time (written and directed by Andrew Nichol) is, IMHO, is a sci-fi thriller that will probably find surprising if exaggerated resonance in the current Occupy Wall Street movement.

The premise of the film is that human beings in the future will be genetically engineered in such a way that normal aging would stop at their 25th birthday and they could live essentially forever (and with a body of a 25 year old) as long as they could purchase enough time to do so.  But if they run out of (purchased) time, the digital meter implanted in their forearms stops and they die, instantly.  So Life becomes something of a cruel game and Time becomes the only currency that matters.  And since the future remains Capitalist, a rich few come to have "all the time in the world" while most of the rest truly come to live "day to day" and the superfluous, those who can not justify their existence to get paid for it, die off quite rapidly.  It's basically eugenics without abortion or gas chambers.  Everybody gets to live to 25 but then ...

The movie begins with, 28 (25+3) year old Will Salas (played by Justin Timberlake) wishing his 50 (25+25) year old mother Rachel (played by Olivia Wilde) who still looks a striking 25, a happy birthday and promising her to take her out to dinner after work that day.  Will works in a factory in working-class Dayton.  His earnings each day depends entirely on market forces.  He put in a hard day's work being particularly productive, knocking off a particularly large amount nameless objects for which he gets paid for.  However, since everyone at the plant apparently did the same, the value of these nameless objects produced actually declined (because of an unexpected increase in supply) and so he ends up getting paid less than he expected.  Nevertheless, he accepts his time wage, and heads to meet his mother.

His mother, on the other hand, finds to her horror that the price of the bus fare to the place where she was to meet her son has gone up.  Finding that she doesn't have enough time on hand to pay the fare and has to run to the place where she was going to meet her son "before her time runs out."  Of course, it does run out, and she dies in Will's arms before he could transfer some of his newly earned time to her.  Will's enraged at the insanity of this treadmill system, but what can he do?

Well, he goes to a bar, and in the bar there's a rich man from a high class enclave called "New Greenwich" with a century of time on his arm.  Will tries to warn him, "you shouldn't be carrying that kind of time around in a place like this."  The rich man doesn't care.  Even though he's lived for over 100 years in luxury and could continue to live indefinitely, he's had enough.  The two become friends.  The next day, Will finds to his surprise the rich man transferred to him virtually all of that century that he was carrying and that the rich man had effectively committed suicide afterwards (allowing his clock to run out).

Will is grateful but finds himself almost immediately in trouble with the authorities.  "Timekeeper" (cop) Raymond Leon (played by Cillian Murphy) in particular makes it his mission to persecute Will because he can't believe that someone like Will would receive so much "free time" from a rich man as a gift.  Will, on the other hand, uses new time to purchase access to progressively more luxurious "time zones," finally arriving at the Monte Carlo like "New Greenwich" at the top of the time pyramid.  There he finds a populace living in lazy rich splendor in beach front luxury condos and casinos.  The also meets a young woman, Sylvia Weis (played by Amanda Seyfried) daughter of a particularly power magnate, Philippe Weis (played by Vincent Kartheiser).

Sylvia, who's known nothing but timeless luxury is swept-up by the bad-boy working-class charm of Will.  Together, the two Will and Sylvia then go on a string of "time bank" robberies to try to bring the system down.

In the course of the story, an older viewer will discern a number of characters from previous tales.  Timekeeper Raymond for instance comes across as a futuristic Javert from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.  He senses that the system he's sworn to uphold is unjust, but he is sworn to uphold it.  So he does so, going way above and beyond the call of normal duty to hunt down Will even though at least initially hasn't even broken the law (having simply received the gift of a lot of time from a tired rich man).  Except for his initial innocence,Will doesn't really fit the model of Jean Valjean.  However, he comes across as a "Clyde" character from the real-life Depression Era crime couple Bonnie and Clyde.  Sylvia is perhaps the story's Bonnie.  More disturbingly, however, Sylvia actually comes across as a Patty Hearst character, where Patty Hearst was the real-life grand-daughter of publishing magnate (and in his time unabashed promoter of unrestricted capitalism) William Randolph Hearst.  Patty had been kidnapped in the 1970s by a homegrown American left-wing terrorist group called the Symbionese Liberation Army and after being held as a hostage for a number of months by the group, she actually joined the group on a number of bank robberies before being recaptured by the police.  She ended up serving some time in prison for her participation in the robberies.

So while In Time presents a very compelling portrait of truly savage "Darwinistic" capitalism it also evokes imagery that I do have to say is disturbing.  While I do sympathize greatly with the Occupy Wall Street movement -- I honestly don't know where young people in the United States will find work twenty years from now.  All kinds of jobs are disappearing and not just to outsourcing overseas but to automation -- I certainly would prefer that the movement go the direction of Martin Luther King Jr's Civil Rights Movement to the violently hopeless direction the S.L.A.  To put it in another way, I definitely agree with John Lennon here:

Revolution (Lyrics) (YouTube)

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world...

But when you talk about destruction,
Don't you know that you can count me out ...

But if you want money for minds that hate,
All I can say is brother, you'll have to wait...

But if you go around carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow ... 

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